Culture History

Oh My Gat 갓! What are the cool hats ancient Koreans wore?

RELATED : Do Koreans wear kimono? HANBOK 한복 – Traditional Korean Clothes : Hanbok in different times – History of Hanbok


What are the cool hats ancient Koreans wore?

Korea seems to be the land of hats: they are made in all kinds of shapes, and I have nowhere seen a greater variety, from the crown of gilded cardboard for the provincial governor to the modest headband of the peasant.

– Charles Varat, a French explorer charged with an ethnographic mission by the minister of Public Instruction.<Voyage en Corée> Le Tour du Monde, LXIII, 1892 Premier Semestre. Paris.

During the Joseon Dynasty, wearing a hat was an important part of the dress code, and a foreigner who visited Joseon described it as “the land of hats” because there were so many kinds of hats worn depending on one’s status and situation. So, without further ado, let’s take a trip to the world of hats from the Joseon Dynasty!


choprip and heukrip, painting by Shin Yun-bok

Chorip 초립 – A hat that was usually worn before heukrip became popular. Made of bamboo strips. Originally, it was worn by both the scholars and the common people, but in the late Joseon Dynasty, it was mostly worn by boys who weren’t yet married but had a coming-of-age ceremony, as people started to wear heukrip.

Heukrip 흑립 – Literally means “black gat (traditional Korean hat made of bamboo strips and horsehair).” It was designated as an official hat during the reign of King Gongmin 공민왕 of Goryeo to break down the customs of the Yuan Dynasty and establish its own attire system, but it wasn’t widely put in place until the late Joseon Dynasty. It was worn by yangban 양반 (noblemen) and seonbi 선비(scholars).

bobusang 보부상 (peddlers) wearing paeraengi 패랭이

Paeraengi 패랭이 – A hat worn by the officials at post stations (they painted it black), and lower-class people like peddlers (they put a large cotton ball on it), and butchers. Made of bamboo strips.

Painting by Kim Yang-gi

Hwiyang/Hwihang 휘양/휘항 – A winter cap worn by men. It covers the head and shoulders. Made of leather, cloth, or cotton.

Sungkyunkwan Scandal 성균관스캔들 (2010, KBS 2)

Yugeon 유건 – Indoor hat of Sungkyunkwan Confucian scholars. Worn during studying or ancestral rites.


Sungkyunkwan, founded at the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty in 1398 by royal decree to promote the scholarship in Confucianism, was the highest and foremost national educational institute. The current Sungkyunkwan University succeeded the original Sungkyunkwan, making it the oldest university in East Asia. The original Sungkyunkwan is located at the south end of the Humanities and Social Sciences Campus. Within the original campus, seokjeon daeje 석전대제, the ceremonial rite to honor Confucius and the Confucian sages of China and Korea are performed in the Munmyo Shrine 문묘, the primary temple of Confucius, twice a year in May and September.

Portraits of Kim Je-deok, Kim Man-jung, Yi Chae wearing jeongjagwan, chungjeonggwan, dongpagwan

Jeongjagwan, Chungjeonggwan, Dongpagwan 정자관, 충정관, 동파관 Originally one of the hats of China. It’s always worn in the house and is the symbol of yangban 양반, the noblemen.

Painting by Kim Deuk-sin

Tanggeon 탕건 – Originally worn only by government officials, it’s more similar to a skullcap/hood than a full hat. It was mainly made of horsehair or leather, but cloth or bamboo was also used.

Painting by Sung Hyeop

Gamtu 감투 – A hat similar to tanggeon. Worn by ordinary people who could afford it. Made with horsehair, leather, or cloth, and doesn’t have a brim, making it easy to wear. This hat was worn by low-class people since the Goryeo Dynasty. It was used by commoners during the Joseon Dynasty.

Ikseongwan 익선관 – The king of Joseon wore this hat when he wore his official uniform. It was introduced from the Ming Dynasty.

Want to spend a day in the life of a Joseon Dynasty-era Korean? Here are Korean hats you can get from Amazon.

Korean Drama Kingdom Hat Chosun Dynasty Traditional Hats 2 PCS – Gwanmo, Heuklip, Jeongjagwan [Amazon]


Part of “The Royal Procession of King Jeongjo”

Neoul 너울 – Worn by the court or upper-class women to cover their faces when they go out.

Painting by Shin Yun-bok

Jisatgat 지삿갓 – Made by weaving bamboo into a circle and applying hanji (traditional Korean paper) and oiling it. Used to prevent rain and sunshine. It’s a hand-held rather than fixed on the hat with a ribbon. 

Jeonmo 전모– It was worn by lower-class women such as gisaeng 기생. Made with hanji, just like jisatgat. Decorated with letters and various patterns (mainly butterflies and flowers).

RELATED : Is gisaeng 기생 the same as giesha? Who was gisaeng? Meet Korea’s multi-talented female entertainers.

Photos by Hojusaram (flickr.com/photos/hojusaram) / Dinkar Raj (flickr.com/photos/dinkar)
Llicensed under CC BY 2.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Ayam 아얌 – A cold cap for women. There is a long string shaped like a daenggi 댕기 (pigtail ribbon) with a tassel in the center. Sometimes decorated with jewelry or gold. 

Jobawi 조바위 – A cold cap for women widely used from the aristocracy to the working class in the late Joseon. As ayam became less popular the long string at the back disappeared, and there were parts covering both sides instead.

“Go Out of the New Year” (1921)
by Elizabeth Keith

Nambawi 남바위 – A winter cap used for both men and women A young child wears it for his/her doljanchi 돌잔치 (first birthday party).

Korean Traditional Hanbok Cap (JOBAWI) Embroidery Girls Babies 1-3 Ages DOLBOK [Amazon]

RELATED : Dojlabi 돌잡이 – What your baby grabs at their first birthday determines their future! Fun and quirky Korean superstitions and beliefs.

Painting by Shin Yun-bok

Gache 가체 is a head ornament/wig worn by women of high social class and gisaeng. It first appeared during the Unified Silla Period, and it’s assumed to have been influenced by the Tang Dynasty. During the reign of King Seongjong 성종 of the Joseon Dynasty, some were as tall as 30 cm (1 ft) because the larger and heavier they were, the more beautiful they were perceived. Consequently, many women suffered from neck pain, and some even broke their necks!

DID YOU KNOW? The roof of the Seoul Arts Center building is the shape of the 갓 gat!

DID YOU KNOW? The roof of the Seoul Arts Center building is the shape of the 갓 gat!

Check out beautiful hanbok products on Amazon

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